Students and professors at the University of Virginia aren’t happy their university president sent an e-mail quoting the school’s founder, Thomas Jefferson.
The Cavalier Daily reports that university President Teresa Sullivan sent a campus-wide e-mail on November 9, the day after the election, encouraging students to stay resilient and hopeful in the wake of Donald Trump’s electoral victory. Sullivan wrote:
Thomas Jefferson wrote to a friend that University of Virginia students ‘are not of ordinary significance only: they are exactly the persons who are to succeed to the government of our country, and to rule its future enmities, its friendships and fortunes.’ . . . I encourage today’s U.Va. students to embrace that responsibility.
In response, a group of professors and students sent a letter two days later objecting to her decision to quote Jefferson because, like many men at the time, he owned slaves.
“We would like for our administration to understand that although some members of this community may have come to this university because of Thomas Jefferson’s legacy, others of us came here in spite of it,” the letter stated, according to The Cavalier Daily. “For many of us, the inclusion of Jefferson quotations in these e-mails undermines the message of unity, equality and civility that you are attempting to convey.”
The letter was reportedly signed by 469 students and teachers.